History & Heritage
September 12, 2019

When once there were sheep in the meadow …

Once there were sheep in the aptly named ‘Sheep Meadow’ of Central Park – an historic gathering place for New Yorkers since Olmsted and Vaux designed the park in the 1860s.  The sheep served as lawn mowers until the 1930s.

This is what it looked like on Tuesday:

Perfect temperature, a painterly sky, flocks of New Yorkers, and three significant changes: the trees are bigger, the skyline is taller, there are no sheep.


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This is a very big deal.

You know the line: “If you can make it there …”

The fees are part of a groundbreaking congestion pricing plan … which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and lawmakers agreed upon early Sunday morning.

New York will become the first American city to charge such fees, though congestion pricing has been in place for years in London, Stockholm and Singapore, among other communities. The fees are expected to raise billions of dollars to fix the city’s troubled subway system and thin out streets that have become strangled by traffic.

Here’s some context … and implications for the rest of us:

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Gord Price will be off for a week in the ‘Great City of the 20th Century.’

In addition to a half dozen or so great recognizable buildings from the last century, there is, buried among them, a deco tower from the 1920s, still known as the Beekman.  At the top is a lounge which looks exactly as you’d expect.  (Isn’t that Stephen Sondheim in the corner banquet, exchanging clever lines with Cole Porter: “No fits, no fights, no feuds and no egos, amigos.”)

I’ll be returning there, as I have since the 1980s.  For another martini.  For a chance to celebrate six decades on this planet in a place that, even at the depths of its decline, convinced me that this was, urbanistically, the kind of place I liked and belonged in.  And as a leader in my own city, in my West End neighbourhood, that we could do it better.

I’ll be on Instagram (‘pricetags’), and will post when I’m not completely distracted.  Which I intend to be, a lot.





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Only they call it the ‘pied-à-terre  tax.  

From the New York Times:

A plan to tax the rich on multimillion-dollar second homes in New York City has rapidly moved closer to reality, as legislative leaders in Albany and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo have all signed off on the idea as a funding stream for the city’s beleaguered subway system. …

Under the Senate’s bill, a pied-à-terre tax would institute a yearly tax on homes worth $5 million or more, and would apply to homes that do not serve as the buyer’s primary residence.


Same arguments too:

Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, said the tax would not be well received within the business community. She suggested that such a tax … could further push the wealthy to reconsider living here. …

But Moses Gates, a vice president at the Regional Plan Association, disputed the notion that New Yorkers would leave the city. The association believes that most wealthy pied-à-terre owners would pay the tax. If they chose to sell, then the property has the chance of being purchased by a full-time city resident, who would then be subject to income and sales tax.

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From the BBC:

A decade ago, Greenpoint, the northern most part of Brooklyn, New York, was home to a thriving immigrant community – a mixture of Poles and Latinos, legal and undocumented.

In the years since, the neighbourhood has transformed not once, but twice. First came the arty hipsters scene and now gentrification has turned old industrial sites into residential developments with rents almost as expensive as Manhattan.

Worth watching just for the droll commentary of Mieszko Kalita, owner of Beata Delicatessen.

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June 30, 2011

This is how Vancouver hears about where it ranks.  From The Wall Street Journal:

NYC Emerges as ‘Green City’ Leader

In a new survey of the sustainability practices and policies of American and Canadian cities, New York placed third overall behind only Vancouver and top-ranked San Francisco. ..

The survey, sponsored by Siemens Corp. and conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, weighed 31 factors including carbon dioxide emissions per capita, water consumption, percentage of waste recycled and number of LEED-certified buildings.

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September 22, 2010

Eric Fischer maps the top 40 US cities by race, using 2000 census data. Each color-coded dot represents 25 people: Red is White, Blue is Black, Green is Asian, and Orange is Hispanic. The maps are oddly pretty, and revealing.

Here’s New York:

Yes, most American cities have pretty sharp lines between the colours.  But not all.  Can you guess this one:

It’s the only city over a million that is one-third white, one-third Hispanic, one-third Asian.

It’s San Jose and Silicon Valley.

For the 40 largest American cities, go here.  I’d love to see the Canadian equivalents.

And thanks to Gladys We.

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September 11, 2009

NOTE: I took the image above on March 30 this year, from the riverfront walkway in Jersey City immediately across Downtown Manhattan.  It is one of two memorials to 9/11 that I saw, including this one on the left.  There are still no memorials on the Manhattan side, waiting, I suppose, for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center.

The next issue of Price Tags, the third in the New York series, will be about the urban design of the Jersey City shore, also affected by post-9/11 developments.

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